GiD Lab: Capitalism in Motion. Imagining, Transforming, and Inventing Economic Forms over Time

GiD is part of this year’s Berlin Science Week! Our GiD Lab “Capitalism in Motion. Imagining, Transforming, and Inventing Economic Forms over Time” aims to discuss the role of human imagination in creating capitalism, the way people shared ideas and norms through speech acts and the way replication and innovation have interacted across geographical and cultural boundaries, forging institutions. The online panel discussion is organized by the German Historical Institute in Rome (GHI Rome) and the Bonn Central Office of the Max Weber Foundation (MWS) and will take place on 5 November 2020, 4-6 pm as livestream on YouTube. Idea and concept came from Dr. Carlo Taviani, who is Project Researcher at the GHI Rome.

Economic tools such as money, contracts, informal agreements and business corporations or joint stock companies are fundamental institutions of capitalism. While they have a physical impact on human lives and reality in general through their products and actions, they only exist in the minds of people as the shared content of their speech acts. They have no physical reality but can deeply affect our world. Humans create institutions and shape their form in order to become richer. Over time people such as merchants, economists, lawyers, notaries and powerful politicians―when it was necessary for them―invented, replicated, innovated, hybridized, and copied them.

The event aims to discuss the role of human imagination in creating capitalism, the way people shared ideas and norms through speech acts and the way replication and innovation have interacted across geographical and cultural boundaries, forging institutions. Some general questions will be addressed: How does language forge institutions? How can models created by scholars through language be fruitfully used to study institutions that are themselves a product of language? How did people in Christian Europe borrow refined institutions from Islamic Africa and the Middle East? Did cultural and religious differences act as barriers? More specifically, the discussion will consider institutions such as the famous business corporations, whose origins usually lie in seventeenth century England and the Netherlands, and the commenda, an ancient system of partnership which existed in the Arab-Islamic world and in Europe in the Middle Ages. A second layer of questions will be related to this part: What defines a business corporation and a commenda? How can a definition of these institutions—created in a specific set of time and space—be productively used to study their transformation through other sets of time and space?


The following experts will take part in the event:

Dr. Stefania Gialdroni

Stefania Gialdroni is currently Research Fellow at the RomaTre University Law Department, where she teaches “Medieval and Modern Legal History” and “The Legal Protection of Cultural Heritage”. She received her PhD “en-cotutelle” from the Universities of Milano-Bicocca and the EHESS (Paris). She has published articles on the History of Commercial Law and on Law and the Humanities. She is the author of the monograph “East India Company. Una storia giuridica (1600-1708)” (2011) and co-editor of the book “Migrating Words, Migrating Merchants, Migrating Law” (2019).


Prof. Ron Harris

Harris’ research field is the history of the business corporation in Britain and comparatively, and in the wider context of legal and economic history. He earned a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University. He was a Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at Stanford, Visiting Professor at UC Berkeley, USC, Cornell University, École Normale, London School of Economics. He is a co-founder of the Israeli Legal History Association and the President of the Economic History Association of Israel.


Dr. Carlo Taviani

The idea and concept for this event came from Carlo Taviani. He is a Project Researcher at the GHI Rome. He received his PhD from the University of Perugia. He has been a Fellow at the Istituto Italiano per gli Studi Storici, Villa I Tatti, the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC, the Italian-German Historical Institute in Trent, a Visiting Scholar at the University of Chicago and at the MacMillan Center at Yale and a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Cape Town. He taught at the Università degli Studi di Teramo, the Università degli Studi di Trento and, the University of Cape Town.
(An Interview with Carlo Taviani:


Dr. Ingrid Greenfield (Moderation)

Ingrid Greenfield is Postdoctoral Fellow and Assistant to the Director for Academic Programs at Villa I Tatti, Harvard University’s Center for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence, Italy. She holds a PhD in Art History from the University of Chicago, and she has worked at museums including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, and the Art Institute of Chicago’s Department of African Arts. Her work addresses exchange between sub-Saharan West Africa and the Italian peninsula in the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries, and the collecting of foreign goods and prestige objects by elites in both regions. Recent projects include organization of the international conference “Crossroads Africa: African Engagement in the Making of Early Modernity” in 2019, a forthcoming edited volume from Harvard University Press, and writing for the exhibition “On Being Present: Recovering Blackness in the Uffizi Galleries,” highlighting the histories and historical context of Black African figures in the Uffizi collection.

Watch our livestream and join the discussion!

When? 5 November 2020, 4-6pm
Where? Live on our YouTube channel: 
Language: English

More information about the Berlin Science Week:

If you have any further questions please contact us:!

We look forward to discussing with you during the livestream! What do you think about the topic? What questions do you have for the experts? We will collect your questions and pass them on to the moderator! Join the discussion on our chatwall: 

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2 Antworten

  1. 06/11/2020

    […] GiD Lab panel discussion “Capitalism in Motion. Imagining, Transforming, and Inventing Economic Fo… will take place on 5 November 2020, from 4 to 6 pm as a livestream on YouTube. Dr. Carlo Taviani, […]

  2. 30/11/2020

    […] missed the event, which was broadcasted live on the YouTube channel of the MWS, you can find the details about event and speakers, an interview with Carlo Taviani as well as an event report on the GiD blog. In addition to that […]

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